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Nadal leads march of top seeds

RAFAEL Nadal came from behind in both sets to beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) on Tuesday and reach the quarterfinals in pursuit of his first Sony Ericsson Open title.

The top-ranked Nadal won despite converting only one of 12 break-point chances. He had four match points at 5-4 in the second set, but the No. 16-seeded Wawrinka hit a succession of big serves to stay alive.

"Sure I can play better," Nadal said, "but I'm happy with my match. It's an important win for me."

The two grueling sets lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes before Nadal closed out the victory with a backhand crosscourt passing shot.

"The best players are winning always, no?" Nadal said. "Winning titles is almost more difficult than ever, because you have to play against the best."

His opponent in the quarterfinals will be sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

Second-seeded Roger Federer overcame eight break points in a remarkable sequence to take the lead for good and he beat American Taylor Dent 6-3, 6-2. Federer will meet American Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals.

Dent's only break-point chances against Federer came in their 26-point fifth game. Federer double-faulted twice and dumped several shots into the net, which had him mumbling, then screaming.

"I had to save so many break points over and over again," Federer said. "I was serving against the wind, so I was struggling with my first serve there a bit. He did well to keep coming at me and creating opportunities. It was definitely a big game for me."

Points short

"I like playing against that kind of style," Federer said. "When I came on tour, this is how many guys were playing, even myself - coming to the net, forcing the issue, keeping the points short."

Fifth-seeded Roddick also left the baseline behind as he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 7-6 (2), 6-4. Roddick won 22 points at the net, showing a willingness to move forward that's part of his more well-rounded game under his new coach, Larry Stefanki.

In other men's fourth-round matches, Novak Djokovic beat No. 21 Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2. Andy Murray routed Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-0. Jo-Wilfied Tsonga won 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2 against No. 7 Gilles Simon, the highest-seeded to be eliminated. Del Potro beat No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain 6-3, 6-2, and Verdasco defeated No. 18 Czech Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-2.

Eight-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia outlasted 18-year-old Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the first women's quarterfinal, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1. When the 2-hour, 54-minute match in humid conditions ended, Kuznetsova slowly crumpled to the court in exhaustion and relief.

The 2006 champion will play in the semifinals against No. 11 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who beat unseeded Australian Samantha Stosur 6-1, 6-0.


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